Summer Sustainable Agriculture Program
The Summer Sustainable Agriculture Program at Sterling College
Two five-week sessions:
May 26th - June 28th and July 8th - August 9th
The Summer Sustainable Agriculture Program, part of Sterling's Summer Semester, is an intensive, on-farm practicum experience in which students to learn to “think and make decisions like farmers”. Supported by our highly diverse farm, students have the opportunity to learn vegetable crop production and management as well as livestock management. Our draft horse team enables students to learn the principles of “live power” – draft horse management and also hands on experience with driving the team in our fields. Students spend each day working on our farm and learning how to make daily and weekly management decisions. The program is a mixture of on-farm experience as well as classroom coursework in organic vegetable production, livestock management systems, agriculture power, farmstead arts, and permaculture.
For a "behind-the-scenes" look at the program visit some of these links: Videos Photos Farm Blog Draft Horse Blog
Outcomes of the program
Students who attend our program can expect to deepen their knowledge and skills around small, diverse, organic farm principles and practices. Through weekly farm walks, students will evaluate the needs and priorities of the work that needs to be done. By rotating through various areas of responsibilities, (propagation, kitchen contract, pasture management, power – horse and tractor), students will be in charge of the key aspects of our farm. This will teach and expose students to the various management skills involved with farming.
Facilities and Resources Available to Students
Sterling’s farm is a model, educational, small, Vermont hillside farm. We have a variety of facilities to support our production and education. They include:
Who Should Apply?
Students should apply to the Summer Sustainable Agriculture Program if they are inclined to experience a farming system during the height of the summer season. Students will learn farming skills related to small, diverse vegetable and livestock farm. Additionally, students will learn draft horse management and tractor skills. Students will learn to “think like farmers” while living in a small community.
This program is great for students who are:
1) Sustainable Agriculture (or related) majors;
2) Interested in local, sustainable food systems and want hands on experience to bring with them to future courses, jobs, internships related to sustainability and our food system;
3) Future educators who want to bring in sustainability principles and hands-on activities to their classrooms;
4) Interested in starting non-profits related to sustainability and local economies;
5) Motivated change agents who seek practical skills and knowledge and want to be connected to a network of farmers, educators, and activists related to food systems and sustainability.
What Can I Expect?
Expect to work hard. Expect to learn a lot. Expect to fall into the rhythm of farming. Expect to go to bed early. Expect to be sore and sun-kissed. Expect to experience the delight of growing and raising a large percentage of your food and your peers’ food. Expect to be frustrated. Expect to be pushed by your peers and teachers. Expect to push your peers and your teachers. Expect to laugh, perhaps cry. Expect to have a lot of fun. Expect to grow as an individual. Expect to build your confidence. Expect a lot!
What is the Daily Life Like in this Program?
Daily schedule includes morning chores with the animals before breakfast. After breakfast, we move right into the practicum. Students do weekly farm walks, assessing the needs of the crops and the animals and prioritizing the work that needs to be done. Then teams break into work groups and begin the farm work. In the afternoon, students manage various areas of responsibilities, or rotations – the rotations students engage in are: managing the kitchen contract, managing the propagation area, managing the pastures, managing the cultivation needs either with the draft horses or tractors. Small groups make decisions and get the work done. They are trained to accomplish the necessary work and to be decision makers. After afternoon work, students move into evening chores, and then to supper. Weekend and evening activities will include taste tests, cooking demos, food preservation workshops, fiber arts workshops, and management of their own vegetable plots. Students will engage in conversations about the state of our food system, movies on food issues, hiking and enjoying Vermont’s natural beauty.
Midweek, students have classroom courses on various farming topics – organic vegetable production, livestock management systems, homestead arts, ag power, literature and the rural experience, and other topics. There are also field trips to visit other farms to learn from area farmers.
All meals will include food produced and raised by the students.
Overall, students will fall into step with the summer rhythm of a small scale, diverse, Vermont hillside farm. They will accelerate their learning to build farm skills and also to build management and decision making skills.
The community component of the farm is also a major part of the summer ag program. Students live together, work together and learn together. From each other, we learn to communicate and share ideas. We push and support each other when the work is tough. We have fun together and get the work done. Students are able to experience a nearly – closed loop farming system and community. We aim to train students who will then bring this experience to other communities and help pass along the knowledge learned and shared together at the Sterling Summer Ag Program.
Courses in the Program
*Practicum in Diversified Small Farm Management
How to Apply?
To apply for the Summer Sustainable Agriculture Program please complete a Sterling College Application for Admission.